A wedding day is made of several stages and each one of them – as well as its’ participants – require a photographic approach capable of registering the most of them. 

Nowadays, the photo coverage in weddings – following the standards of the times we are living in – is reaching levels of quality and diversity according to the several existing areas of taste and consumption.

As a wedding photographer, I must be concerned about my clients. Yet, to serve them well, I must first be concerned the photograph itself. Without being able to accomplish a good and personal photographic product, I will be unfit to deliver to those who required my services something which expresses itself as a personal result in the diversity of the general offer when it comes to wedding photography.

We can distinguish wedding photography approach into several modalities: classic with poses, wedding photojournalism, photo report, etc. Finding each one of these methods legitimate (in other words, there is no such thing as the wedding photography method and only a proper execution should fill the mind of the photographers during the wedding) I don’t give much importance to the method but to the result.

On my part, however, I’ve had to build my own way of covering a wedding day. I can say it was not difficult to achieve the process when it came to the way of actually doing. Since I am an impulsive person by nature and find it somewhat hard to accustom to whichever is repetitive, it was obvious, right from the beginning, that if I was to have a criterion to photograph a wedding it would have to have something to do with the observation of what lies in front of me and seizing the moment within a frame whenever it felt like the right moment.

The joy of having contained inside a little rectangle – which is the limited space of a photo – a story, or part of it which moreover holds pictorial elements turning the same photograph into a subject of attention is a great privilege, hence a great responsibility. I’ve had to develop the capability to manipulate the equipment as well as a quick mechanism of decision when it came to the choice of the right material to each situation and, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt, knowing the right moment for the climax of the whole process: shooting.

To be able to give you the idea of what I may call my own method, it will perhaps be better to tell the story of my first wedding. I was suggested by a friend to photograph a wedding and I had absolutely no experience on the matter. More scared than a porcupine in a balloon, there I went with my strap bag. Without the capability of anticipating what could happen throughout the day, my instincts eventually solved the problem for me. I kept photographing what was going on around me and since I had no previous experience on how to direct grooms and guests I simply chose (not exactly a choice but a natural reaction) to keep registering the constant commotion of the day. It seemed to be a good decision since the result pleased the grooms in such a way they actually promoted my decision in becoming a wedding photographer.

 The method, photojournalism.

 Let us discuss this concept. Photojournalism is a way of making a photographic coverage of the events, whichever they may be, without interfering, hence the difficulty: being able to present photographs which are graphically and aesthetically interesting to those who observe. One thing is to direct a group of people so that we may build an interesting picture. Another very different thing is to no control over the situation and, nevertheless, knowing the right angle, which part we’ll include in the picture and which is the right moment for shooting. I stray back to the beginning – the exercising of the look and the use of the equipment.

 In time, things started to arrange themselves and my methodcame from the maturation and in the experience I gained and a more fluid reading of the events as I kept a more and more effective invisibility. With time and experimenting I was getting better, as a wedding day went by, in realizing the solutions for the several places in which a wedding takes place: the houses of the bride and groom, the places where preparations take place, where the ceremony and the party are, etc. It also came to transpire a way of concluding the photographic process which I can happily call mine.

Assuming the process of photographing without interfering (since I assume the photographer is not and must not be a master of ceremonies, controlling the several stages of the day), implies that I must be able to go through the guests as someone they don’t pay attention to. This does not mean being unpleasant when someone requires my services for a specific photograph they want, on the contrary. However, when it comes to photographing I assume a posture of seeming indifference as if I was something malleable and invisible, walking past people seizing each situation to make a picture. Contrary to what I thought, they realize, from the beginning, that this is the way I work and, at the same time, they ignore me but they also give me their presence and their interaction don’t feel troubled by my presence. Thus, I am able to tell the story of the day the way it should be.

 You must not expect of me the kind of photographer who, like an orchestra conductor, proposes, throughout the day, an amount of situations for the grooms and guests to “have fun for the picture”. I don’t take balloons or any other kind of artefact nor will I be trying to provoke reactions from the guests to the camera. However, I will be on the frontline. Being an outside observer is a good way of making the coverage for a wedding day.

 I did all my learning when there was no digital photography. The film had, has, characteristics and needs of knowledge far more rigid when it comes to the exposure and control. The digital offers a lot more possibilities of rectifying a mistake. The “old school” applied to the nowadays digital equipment allows me to create a finish of my pictures within the patterns demanded by the film: a more rigorous exposure, a more sensual texture, a great feeling of light dripping from the volumes of the pictures, etc. The fact that I don’t use flash lights leads me to a maximized seizing of the possibilities of the camera and software I use, creating images with a strong density but also with a very special intensity and sensuality provided by light – which is one of my brand images. Most of my pictures, mainly the ones taken in interiors (bride and groom’s houses, churches and party sights) are intentionally made in a way that the grain makes part of them and becomes an element of construction of the pictures which we feel like touching to see if they actually have texture. The absence of flash (except when it’s absolutely necessary) creates the sensation of one being at the actual place, with all the colour ranges and shades that were there but now redefined by the conditions of the lenses and the intensity of the finishing. 

The black and white makes part of my way of finishing the pictures in a great percentage. The pictures always receive a treatment as if they were made to be printed in paper and always with the characteristics of the times of the Kodak T-Max film and the Agfa paper, which I liked so very much.

I won’t write any further on my black and white since I have a relationship with it which is too affective for me to be able to give reasoning without easily sliding unto an allegory or even exaggerating its’ importance. I leave it to those who have the chance to see my work. However, I believe that binding black and white photography to wedding photography is one of the best ways to make such an important day last.

I’ve mentioned a few times the matter of the day. Having a basic principle for my work to tell this story through photography, which better bed for them other than the Wedding Album? There, they will lie elegant, living witnesses, combining in such a way that the visual harmony becomes a delight for those for curious eyes and, at the same time, a stage of revisited memories. For the Wedding Album, I look for an easy description without any elements that may steal the attention from the photographs and their contents. To be able to give, to those who were there, at the wedding, a keepsake straight through the eyes of my cameras and lenses and a printing preparation which pour unto them with a special embellishment. For those who were not there, let the Album be able to tell the story of a beautiful day and be, just like any other good book of memoirs, a remembrance. The Wedding Album be the climax of a process made form a surrender and love – not just from the story’s characters, but also from this humble picture scribe. 

Here lies the invitation. You will be most welcome.

Texto e Fotos: Fernando Colaço